Friday, July 28, 2006

Britain's Equal Opportunites Commission celebrate thirty years of discriminating against men

They fight discrimination by practicing it!

Institutional gender discrimination is alive and kicking at Britain’s Equal opportunities Commission [EOC] .The annual report of the government funded 10 million pound quango reveals that male staff has been reduced to just 18.2% after an unfortunate blip the previous year when 19% was reached. EOC could surely win the prize for the most successful homophobic major employer in the country. It would certainly be hard to beat over the last thirty years.

Glamorous and charismatic EOC chair Jenny Watson could also boast how her organisation had frustrated an attempt to prevent Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire Police Services operating recruitment scams to arbitrarily exclude almost 300 men in favour of women. They were able to exploit their statutory powers to ensure these sexually discriminatory recruitment processes were successfully completed before making a pointless judgment on 26 June that they were unlawful, accepting a promise from the guilty authorities that they would not employ those particular tricks again. The cheats were allowed to walk off with their gains with no penalty.

Gerald Hartup director of civil libeties group Liberty and Law said: “ There is a lesson to be learnt. Rules are for little people. Why did I expect the EOC to act after informing them about discrimination so blatant that everyone knew it was a scam? Citizens clearly need to understand that for proper governance there is a requirement for double standards and to operate within the new system. Only in this way will they not be alienated from it. The EOC is the model to follow.”

Liberty and Law in November 2005 also reported the Metropolitan Police Service to the EOC over another version of institutional gender discrimination against men. It is confident however that the EOC is capable and determined to meticulously research the programme with the help of the Met with the result that no conclusion of any help to discriminated against men is arrived at.

Mr Hartup stated: “It will be another triumph for modern democratic management. The crude enforcement of the rule of law has proved to be unsatisfactory to progressives who require and can now utilize discretion to control the mob, the schmucks with their childish obsession with “objective justice". But we shmucks will still be shmucks.”



The Child Support Agency has proved the most spectacular failure in public administration of the past 15 years. Its vital statistics are staggeringly awful: it has identified but failed to collect 3.5 billion pounds in maintenance; new cases remain unopened for a year, thanks to a backlog of 330,000 unprocessed claims; only half of absent parents have made the correct payment; a quarter have made none at all. Its demoralised staff take an average 15.6 days off a year, more than any other section of the Department for Work and Pensions, itself the sick man of Whitehall.

Brickbats for the CSA are thrown happily by politicians who forget too easily that the agency was introduced in 1993 to widespread acclaim. The idea of calculating and collecting payments from "deadbeat dads" who ignored parental responsibilities after divorce or separation was sound. It replaced often arbitrary and unfair court decisions. Unlike the courts, the new agency could trace absent parents.

In practice, though, it has been little short of lamentable. It was never going to be easy to insert the State into a bitter family row, but there were mistakes in conception. Giving a single agency the powers to investigate, adjudicate and enforce was asking too much. Another founding flaw was to regard the CSA as a money-saver. For every pound a lone parent received in maintenance, the State would deduct a pound of benefits. That required all lone parents on benefit to register with the CSA even if they could have reached an amicable financial settlement. Their numbers helped to swamp the system. Last year the enforcement unit spent 12 million to collect 8 million pounds.

The early regime made strategic errors. It was unprepared for the extent of non-compliance and unsure how to respond. It did so by tending to ignore the hard cases while hounding to the financial brink many of those doing their best to pay up. Incompetence was soon endemic. About 35,000 people have received compensation as a result of maladministration. A fifth of demands are inaccurate; a third of phone calls are unanswered.

The thrust of John Hutton's statement was sadly inevitable. Much of the uncollected money will be written off, threatening to leave many lone mothers in limbo. His detailed response will wait until an autumn White Paper, although the outline is clear: a pared-down agency with tougher powers to chase the hardest cases. The threat to a foot-dragging father of a curfew or of losing his passport is more likely to get results than the current sanction of seizing a driving licence, a largely self-defeating measure given that many fathers need to drive to work to fund their maintenance payments, and one that was used only half a dozen times.

Any new agency will fail unless it learns the lessons of the CSA. They include the need for a competent and well-motivated workforce, a computer system that works and supreme leadership, preferably from the private sector. The Australian example shows that success is not impossible. Giving couples more of a chance to sort out their own affairs makes excellent sense. But the principle of making absent fathers pay remains sound. The task is greater now than ever; there are 700,000 more single parents than in 1993. Unless the Government is realistic, deserving children will again be victims of misplaced idealism.


Australia: Political opportunism drives mania about incorrect food

Federal and state politicians debating a serious health concern this week could find themselves in decidedly unhealthy disagreement. Regrettably, obesity has become a political issue. The ever-present danger is that ends can be claimed to justify means, however unreasonable, unwarranted and undemocratic. Today, a group of state health ministers will seek restrictions on children's TV advertising of products judged overly high in fat, salt or sugar. The federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, is expected to counter that it isn't a proper response to a problem of personal and parental responsibility.

Following Abbott's announcement last week of a ministerial taskforce on obesity, the health ministers' conference is attracting international attention, not so much in anticipation of a pointer to social policy as in assessing Australia's contribution to the politicisation of fat people.

Australian advertisers have lobbied against such an outcome since the earliest recognition of worrisome obesity trends. They have consistently - and persistently - sought to be part of a politically neutral response to something they see as not of their making, but as a whole-of-community problem requiring an all-of-community solution. Action to date, including new rules for advertising to children and a $10 million healthy lifestyle advertising campaign, will be extended this week with the tabling of a code of conduct for all food and beverages marketing communications. It's a big call but the advertising, marketing and media sectors want to be seen as the responsible contributors to the community they believe themselves to be.

But a minority of members of that community - within government bureaucracies as well as without - have persuaded some politicians that food and beverage manufacturers and marketers, together with their evil allies in the advertising and media sectors, are conspiring to kill off the very consumers who are their reasons for being. That the argument does not make a lot of sense has not dissuaded the deluded any more than their knowledge of Quebec, where a 25-year ban on advertising to children has resulted in no appreciable difference in obesity rates from other Canadian provinces. In fact, the children of Quebec have experienced a greater weight gain in the past decade than their provincial neighbours.

It's a fair comment that many claiming to be campaigning in the cause of childhood obesity have lost sight of the health objective, and have become focused on some sort of political victory over television commercials. In truth, there is as much research excusing advertising as a factor in obesity as there is accusing it. The response of one group of academic researchers linked to the anti-advertising lobby has been to simply assume a link, and build a case for advertising restrictions from there.

As complex as it is as a health problem, obesity may simply be an unforeseen consequence of the lifestyle change brought about by a world war that created a norm of two-income families, new drives for technological advancement and individual affluence, less need for physical activity and more demand for processed, packaged and convenience foods. But arguing whether Adolf Hitler is more or less to blame than John Logie Baird or Alexander Graham Bell will not do any more to reverse obesity trends over the next generation than considering it as a political rather than a health priority.


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